Digital Tradition Mirror

Clerk Colvill

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Clerk Colvill

Clerk Colvill and his lusty dame
Were walking in the garden green,
The belt around her stately waist
Cost Clerk Colvill of pounds fifteen.

"O promise me now, Clerk Colvill,
Or it will cost ye muckle strife,
Ride never by the wells of Slane,
If ye wad live and brook your life."

"Now speak nae mair, my lusty dame,
Now speak nae mair of that to me;
Did I neer see a fair woman
But I wad sin with my body?'

He's taen leave o his gay lady,
Nought minding what his lady said,
And he's rode by the wells of Slane,
Where washing was a bonny maid.

"Wash on, wash on, my bonny maid,
That wash sae clean your sark of silk;"
"It's a' for you, ye gentle knight,
 My skin is whiter than the milk."

He's taen her by the milk-white hand,
And likewise by the grass-green sleeve,
And laid her down upon the green,
Nor of his lady speer'd he leave.

Then loud, loud cry'd the Clerk Colvill,
"O my head it pains me sair;"
"Then take, then take," the maiden said,
"And frae my sark you'll cut a gare"

Then she's gied him a little bane-knife,
And frae her sark he cut a share;
She's ty'd it round his whey-white face,
But ay his head it aked mair.

Then Iouder cry'd the Clerk Colvill,
"O sairer, sairer akes my head"
"And sairer, sairer ever will,"
The maiden crys, "till you be dead"

Out then he drew his shining blade
Thinking to stick her where she stood,
But she was vanished to a fish
And swam far off, a fair mermaid.

"O mother, mother, braid my hair
My lusty lady, make my bed.
O brother, take my sword and spear
For I have seen the false mermaid."

Note: English versions of this are a bit confused. In Scandinavian
versions, CC has deserted his mermaid to marry a human. The fatal
shirt is the mermaid's revenge.
Child #42
From Viking Book of Folk Ballads of the English Speaking World.


Thanks to Mudcat for the Digital Tradition!

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